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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

EPA's New Nuclear Safety Standards Send DOE Back to the Starting Gate

CONTACT:  Select Committee, 202.225.4012

EPA’s New Nuclear Safety Standards Send DOE Back to the Starting Gate

Markey Calls for Yucca Mountain Application to be Resubmitted

WASHINGTON (September 30, 2008) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today their public health and safety standards for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility. This announcement came four months after the Department of Energy (DOE) filed its application for the facility.  

“Today’s action by the administration only reinforces how their entire approach to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project has put politics and the financial health of the nuclear industry ahead of science and the health of the public,” said Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  “Today’s new rules make clear that the Department of Energy jumped prematurely with an answer before the question had been finished.  They need to withdraw the application, finish their homework assignment, and resubmit it.”   

“The rules on Yucca Mountain are especially critical given that some in Congress, including Senator McCain, are calling for an explosion in nuclear construction that would generate the need for a new Yucca Mountain every 17 to 24 years,” Markey added.  

Today's regulations came after EPA's original Yucca regulations were found to be inadequate by the D.C. Circuit Court in 2004. Those regulations failed to set exposure limits at all for the period in which the risk of harmful exposure to humans would be the greatest. The standards issued today establish a dose limit for what constitutes an acceptable level of radiation exposure from the nuclear waste facility for the next million years, the amount of time the facility is expected to emit toxic radiation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was already evaluating the Yucca application despite the absence of these final standards.   

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) called for disposal of spent nuclear fuel in a deep geologic repository.  The NWPA directed the Department of Energy to develop such a repository.  Originally, DOE was considering the suitability of numerous sites for the geologic repository.  But in 1987, before determining its suitability, Congress legally barred DOE from considering any site other than the Yucca Mountain site as the potential location for the repository.  

While DOE is responsible for developing the application for the repository, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is responsible for developing the regulations that will ensure the safety of any such facility and reviewing the application to determine that the repository design meets those safety standards.  In the area of radiation protection, the NRC was directed to adopt the standards that were to be developed by the EPA.


PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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